The next time you look under the hood of Microsoft's Dynamics AX, you might have a hard time recognizing it. The forthcoming new iteration of the flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) product has been completely revamped.
For starters, the product has been rewritten entirely in HTML5.
Microsoft Dynamics used HTML5 in the past, for instance in companion apps with time and expense management, Mike Ehrenberg, technical fellow, Microsoft Dynamics ERP told CMSWire.
It also offered browser solutions based on SharePoint. The new AX has done away with that piecemeal approach, Ehrenberg said, "HTML5 is the broad user experience that also unifies the architecture."
But this is still Microsoft we are talking about. Dynamics AX may be re-architected in the latest version of the Hypertext Markup Language but it’s also been infused with Microsoft technology. Making star appearances in the portfolio are Azure SQL, Azure machine learning, Office 365, Cortana and Power BI.
Power BI is, of course, Microsoft’s native analytics program. And here too, Dynamic AX is giving users another "first," Ehrenberg said. "This is the first time Power BI has been embedded in our ERP system."
Power BI could always be used alongside the ERP in past iterations, he continued, "but we did the work with the Power BI team to embed it inside."
There are new productivity and collaboration-oriented features such as Tasks Guides, which records the steps in a business process much like an Excel macro and a concept called "Workspaces," where users can gather all the processes, data and activities for their specialized roles.
It also includes a mobile piece, the Windows 10 Universal App — or what Ehrenberg called a hybrid app, in that it delivers Dynamic AX's HTML5 experience in an app container. Yes, the app will also be available for iOS and Android, Ehrenberg said, "reflecting our cross-platform commitment."
The result, Ehrenberg said, is "truly transformative."
Dynamics AX will be generally available in the first quarter of 2016.
Now let's unpack some of these features.
All in One Analytics
The blend of Azure SQL, Power BI and Office 365 bears a deeper look. The combo of the first two are embedded throughout the platform, providing near real time analytics. The advantage, Ehrenberg explained, is that users don’t have to leave the app to work with a separate analytics or business intelligence tool.
Dynamics AX also uses in-memory BI to channel Power BI, so the user can create the analytics, see what they pull up in the application, tap PowerBI to drill down into the data, even reaching the original transactions.
Here, Azure machine learning can swoop in to make suggestions, say on financial planning or product recommendations, based on previous calculations and configuring.
Collaboration, In Context
Dynamics AX is also heavy on the productivity and collaboration factor, Ehrenberg said. It has Office 365, after all, and Skype interoperability as well.
The new feature "Workspaces," takes some of this a bit further. As Ehrenberg explains, it is for employees who have specialized roles or tasks, or for those who just like their work flows a certain way — which, when you think about it, probably covers all users.
Workplaces brings all the data, tasks and activities meant for the roles in one place, which creates a double whammy of sorts as the configuration can also bring new context to the data. And if that doesn’t work, the aforementioned Power BI, in-memory BI and Azure SQL can always be summoned to wring out new insights.
Likewise for another new tool, Task Guides, created to aid in the development of a new process, or to teach someone new to a role how to perform a new process. On-screen guidance is available to build the process and as a nice added touch, users can drive the application using voice commands through Cortana.
The Benefit of the Cloud
Dynamics AX, of course, is delivered through the Azure Cloud, a mode that gives Microsoft a close up view of how its customers work and what works for them. "We can see what people are using, what is working and what is not," Ehrenberg said.
For that reason, everything in Dynamics AX was engineered for optimum use in the cloud, he said. "We have one of the biggest cloud footprints out there and Dynamics AX is built to take advantage of that."